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Christmas Bird Count

What better way to celebrate the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 than by participating in the Christmas Bird Count (CBC)? This year marks the 119th annual count for National Audubon and the 45th for Rutland County. The Rutland count will be held on Saturday, December 29.

What is the Christmas Bird Count? Many years ago, it was the custom to go out during the Christmas season and shoot birds for sport. In 1900, as people began to realize that bird populations were in decline (and some species going extinct), ornithologist Frank Chapman decided it would be better to COUNT birds instead of shooting them. The idea began to spread and today there are over 2,500 counts throughout the U.S., Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Pacific Islands.

The Rutland Christmas Count area is a circle centered at the falls in Center Rutland and encompasses a 15-mile diameter around that. That includes all of Rutland City, Rutland Town, portions of Proctor, West Rutland, Ira, Pittsford and Clarendon. Participants go out to cover assigned portions of the circle, counting as many birds as possible, as well as noting weather conditions and mileage covered. Others count from home.

The Christmas Bird Count is fun! And it’s a great way to get out in the fresh air and enjoy nature after the excesses of the holidays. You join other bird enthusiasts to take on the challenge of identifying and counting as many species and individual birds as possible. If you don’t feel your skills are up to par, don’t worry, we’ll pair you with a team. It can be an opportunity to meet new friends and learn more about birds and citizen science, the real point of the CBC.  

Citizen science, the idea that non-professional people can contribute to a body of data, important to furthering scientific study, is what the Christmas Bird Count is all about. With over a century of data, the CBC is one of the oldest citizen science projects. Data has been used by researchers, conservation biologists, wildlife agencies and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America.

So now you know why you should participate here is how:

Join a field team! We have eight teams, seven that cover a portion of the circle and travel by car, getting out at promising spots. One team walks along Otter Creek and is definitely for the hardier among us. Contact Kathleen Guinness at birding@rutlandcountyaudubon.org to join the count.

Not a fan of going out in the cold weather? Feeder watchers within the count circle are also needed. If you aren’t sure if you live within the circle, contact us at birding@rutlandcountyaudubon.org and we can help you figure it out.

The day ends at the Proctor Library with a potluck supper and a countdown of the species seen. Attendance at the supper isn’t mandatory (we know this is a busy time of year), but it’s a lot of fun and the food is always abundant and good. The supper starts at 6 p.m. with beverages and utensils to share. Just bring your favorite dish to share!


West Rutland Marsh - November 2018

Temperatures under 20 degrees and impending snow reminded the seven participants at today’s West Rutland Marsh walk that winter is looming. Despite the cold we tallied 22 species, one less than a year ago, and three more than our average for November.

Two common redpolls were spotted near the boardwalk by one early birder. This is a species expected to be seen in the northeast this year.

Further down Marble Street one sharp-eared birder picked up the sound of Bohemian waxwings, another winter irruptive reported this past week throughout the state. We then found 12 of them on top of a tree. If you are interested in what else might be seen this winter, click here for the annual finch forecast (which includes other species).

Also, along Marble Street, we alarmed a great blue heron lurking in the reeds and watched it as it circled a field and took off.

Two winter wrens were heard along Whipple Hollow Road, each in different locations.

Several American robins were recorded as well as a lone red-winged blackbird.

No pine grosbeaks or pine siskins were seen, but maybe we will see them on next month’s walk scheduled for Saturday, December 15, at 8 a.m. We all love our furry friends, but in order to lessen disturbance to our feathered friends, please leave pets at home.

Today's list:
Canada Goose  38
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  6
Mourning Dove  8
Great Blue Heron  1
Downy Woodpecker  4
Blue Jay  12
American Crow  6
Common Raven  2
Black-capped Chickadee  26
Tufted Titmouse  4
White-breasted Nuthatch  4
Winter Wren  2
American Robin  8
European Starling  18
Bohemian Waxwing  12
House Finch  4
American Goldfinch  3
Dark-eyed Junco  3
Red-winged Blackbird  1
Northern Cardinal  2
Common Redpoll  2
House Sparrow  1





Seed Sale & Membership Drive - November 3

On Saturday, November 3, we will hold our annual seed sales at two locations: Garland’s on Park Street in Rutland from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Blue Seal Feeds on Route 7 in Brandon, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. We'll help you pick out the right seed to make your feathered friends happy and there is no sales tax. Checks or cash only please. No pre-order necessary.

Many of you have been loyally coming to our seed sales year after year. Thank you! We appreciate your support. The profits from our sales go to running our chapter. We try hard to keep our expenses down so we can spend more time protecting birds and less time fundraising.  

Another big thank-you to our seed sale hosts - Garland’s Agway in Rutland and Blue Seal Feeds in Brandon are vital supporters of Rutland Audubon. They forgo their seed sale profits for the day to give us this opportunity. We thank them and hope you will give them other business in recognition of their contribution.

The seed sale is also a good time to join our chapter. You can get your fall seed from us at whichever location is best for you. Along with supporting our efforts you will be feeding the birds during winter, their most vulnerable time. While you are there, bring us a bird story or question. We love talking about the birds! 




West Rutland Marsh - October 2018

Well, it could have been worse! With a 100% chance of rain in the forecast, none of the eight participants said they eagerly jumped out of bed to be in time for today’s walk around West Rutland Marsh. Fortunately, it was warm with little wind, and the ‘real’ rain held off until the second half of the walk.

We ended up tallying 28 species, the same number as one year ago, but three below our October average. Here are some of our highlights:

Two marsh wrens were chattering in the reeds along Marble Street. Although they were fairly close to where we stood, we never saw them. Swamp sparrows gave out a few songs as did a few song sparrows.

A sharp-shinned hawk was mobbed by crows bent on murder. A raven joined the crows who then turned on the raven as the sharpie escaped.

One gray catbird was seen as was a single hermit thrush.

A scolding rattle alerted us to a blue-headed vireo which we then saw as it moved along with a flock of sparrows and yellow-rumped warblers. Numerous yellow-rumped warblers were seen among the tall weeds with some hawking insects. Three common yellowthroats were observed.

Three white-crowned sparrows and several white-throated sparrows were noted.

The walk concluded with an American bittern flying up from the corner of Marble and Water streets and flapping low across the marsh.

Our next walk is scheduled for Thursday, November 15 at a.m. We all love our furry friends, but in order to lessen disturbance to our feathered friends, please leave pets at home.

Today's list:

13 Canada Goose
4 Mourning Dove
1 American Bittern 
1 Sharp-shinned Hawk 
4 Downy Woodpecker
4 Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)
1 Blue-headed Vireo
13 Blue Jay
27 American Crow
2 Common Raven
16 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Marsh Wren
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Hermit Thrush
29 American Robin
1 Gray Catbird
10 European Starling
1 Cedar Waxwing
3 American Goldfinch
1 Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)
3 White-crowned Sparrow
12 White-throated Sparrow
14 Song Sparrow
4 Swamp Sparrow
16 Red-winged Blackbird
3 Common Yellowthroat
23 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
1 Northern Cardinal

Book Review - Birds: The Art of Ornithology

Author Jonathan Elphick has organized his beautifully illustrated book, Birds: The Art of Ornithology in chronologic chapters. Through it all, there are three propulsive currents. First, the development of increasingly sophisticated techniques of printing, advancing from engraving to lithography and beyond, allowing dissemination of bird art to an ever wider public. Second, improved methods of specimen preservation enhancing the study of anatomical detail. And lastly, the maturation over time of the artists’ perception of the essence of the character of his ornithologic subject and how to express that artistically.

Looking back, Captain James Cook’s well-known 18th century South Seas expedition was merely the prototype specimen collecting venture. Indeed, there was a near mania of competitors rushing to explore and document specimens found on all continents. The author covers a plethora of collectors and artists in succinct biographies. Not all were innate naturalists. A Scotsman, Thomas Watting, had used his drawing and engraving skills to forge bank notes, and as punishment, was sent to the Australian convict colony; upon early pardon, he used his skills to depict Australian birds!

The author discusses the wide cast of characters which enabled these, often multivolume, encyclopedic compilations to be produced: world travelers, seamen, taxidermists, artist/adventurers, engravers, watercolorists, publishers, wealthy patrons, subscribers, and ornithologists.

At the end, I felt overwhelmed with beautiful bird art, yet wondered, where it will go from here. Over the ages, bird art has gone from stiff, still subjects, to lively representations of the personality of the birds, and now, often depictions of birds as we truly seen them: blurred in flight or hidden in foliage. In this Anthropocene era, having over-conquered the globe, do we hubristically claim there is nothing more to learn and discover of bird differentiation and intricacies of species? In our rapid-fire internet world do we no longer have the mindset or patience to investigate “every feather around the eye and every scale on the feet?” Today it’s the fantastic digital shots (and questionably photo-shopped) that get National Geographic acclaim.

But the book is a gem in its own right. Most pages have an illustration accompanied by a comment on the artist’s style and intent. It comes in a box, including 34, 10”x 13” prints suitable for framing.

This volume would be great for perusal or study on a cold winter’s night. For our rural community libraries, it would be a lovely addition to set out in a corner reading nook for winter patrons, searching out something to brighten their day. It is available at www.rizzoliusa.com or at Amazon, $45.00.